Ben Gilby hears from Melbourne City’s Emma Checker, Melbourne Victory’s Kayla Morrison plus Adelaide United’s Grace Taranto, and Leia Varley. There’s also Tony Gustavsson‘s explanation of his selection for the Matildas’ friendlies with the USWNT next week.
Above: Melbourne City’s Emma Checker spoke to the media this week about how she sees good things ahead for the team this season. Photo: Melbourne City.
Matildas name squad for USWNT Friendlies:
Click here: https://impetusfootball.org/2021/11/17/matildas-unveil-squad-for-uswnt-matches/ for all the details and the views of Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson.
Melbourne City’s Emma Checker Speaks To The Media:
On Monday, City and Matildas defender Emma Checker met the media and began by emphasizing how excited she is for the new campaign.”There is no shying away from the fact that last season was difficult and we didn’t achieve what we wanted to, however, I feel that we’re in a really good and positive place moving into the new season.”
Asked about what specifically makes her believe that this season will be better, Checker replied: “I feel that we’ve got some really good young players who are exciting and talented. They are ambitious and willing to work hard. We’re seeing it every session of pre-season what they are willing to do.
“Holly McNamara is really impressing me. She’s come back from an injury and she’s going to be really great for us. Obviously as well we have Sally James as well.
“There’s also the return of Rebekah Stott, who is a massive part of this team and this club. She wears her heart on her sleeve. That sounds like a cliche, but it is who she is. We are all so proud of what she’s done to get back to where she is. It’s not just her qualities as a player, but as a person that she brings to us. It’s invaluable. As a centre-back partner, I’m very selfishly pleased to have her back!”
Speaking about her own personal goals for the campaign, Checker was clear: “The Asian Cup is in January, followed by a World Cup and Olympics so there are lots of big games I want to be part of. Immediately though, it’s about improving with Melbourne City as a team to prove that last season was a one-off downfall for us. We need to prove that we’re capable of coming back and redeeming ourselves.”
Checker also highlighted the elements that she knows she needs to keep focusing on to hit her personal targets “I need to keep growing and maturing as a player as well as looking at what I need to do with City.”
The City defender ended the media session by looking at the contenders for the A-League Women crown this season. “Obviously we have to respect (Melbourne) Victory as they had a great season (last time) and they have a really strong squad. I do think that they are going to be a hard team to beat. I also think that there will be other strong teams, but there has been a lot of changes in other teams so it will be very unpredictable and exciting.
Kayla Morrison – Melbourne Victory Star On Being Captain:
Melbourne Victory has revealed that Kayla Morrison will be the Club’s A-League Women captain for the 2021/22 season.
Morrison, who joined the Club at the start of the 2020/21 season, will lead Jeff Hopkins’ side in their Championship defence that kicks off on Sunday 5th December against Adelaide United at AAMI Park.
The American-born defender was crucial in the A-League Women’s Championship last season, leading the defensive line in recording eight clean sheets throughout the season and lifting the trophy alongside former captain, Angie Beard.
The 25-year-old enters this season with A-League Women’s experience under her belt and says captaining the Club that gave her the opportunity to play in Australia is humbling.
“It’s an honour to be leading such a special group of players at Melbourne Victory this season,” Morrison said.
“I know wearing the armband will be a challenge but I feel my qualities as a leader and as a footballer will help me guide the squad to perform to the best of our abilities this season.
“Angie Beard was an exemplary leader last season and I’m looking forward to continuing to develop and nurture our talented squad as we strive to achieve the ultimate success. It was a big loss losing Angie, but you couldn’t ask for anyone better to step into that role than Courtney Nevin. She has international experience now. She’s young, but she’s a gun and is very similar to Angie in many ways
“Winning the competition here last season and now being captain is incredible. I’m excited but also nervous, but I am definitely ready to lead the team and get us to another Grand Final.
“I think the girls are already fed up with hearing my voice at them, but I just tell them if it’s not me yelling at you it will be Jeff (Hopkins, head coach)! So they need to just do what I say the first time! I find him (Jeff Hopkins) a bit scary myself! He wants us to be strong defenders and to let the other team know we are there from the start of the game.
“I like to think that I’m already a leader and so I don’t think the additional responsibility will take anything away from my game. I do want to work on communicating and organizing a bit better. We have so many natural leaders on the team we can be in a good place.
Asked about the additional challenge of being the team that everyone will want to beat this season, Morrison spoke about how that actually brings out the best in her side: “We always play better when teams are strong against us. We feel it as motivation. We want to win whether it’s a proper match or just an internal training match. So with hard work, we can win everything.”
“We are looking really good in training. The new girls have added a new level to us, but it’s a big positive to have so many returning players in a core. In terms of where we are compared to last season in preparations, I’d say that we’re ahead of where we were this time last year, but there’s always things we can improve on. We need to be on the next level.”
With Victory playing some doubleheaders this year, Morrison was excited about the prospect of playing more matches at the club’s main stadium “It will be amazing to have more games at AAMI Stadium and other clubs will need to follow us on that.”
Brillante will be joined by Leigh Broxham and Roderick Miranda who will be Vice Captains while Morrison will be joined by Melissa Maizels and Lia Privitelli in the Women’s Leadership Group.
Reds add Taranto and Varley to squad:
Adelaide United announced that defenders Grace Taranto and Leia Varley have signed scholarship deals for the upcoming A-League Women 2021/22 season.
Taranto arrives from Victoria where she played 10 games with FC Bulleen Lions before the COVID-19 pandemic suspended the 2021 National Premier League seasons.
The versatile defender, who has represented the Junior Matildas, previously spent time with FV Emerging, scoring seven goals in 37 games.
Speaking on joining the Reds, Taranto said: “I’m so excited to have signed my first professional contract and that it’s with Adelaide United.
“I’m looking forward to working under the guidance of Adrian (Stenta) and the entire staff, and can’t wait to embark on this journey with my new teammates.”
Meanwhile, Varley also joins United from Victoria and scored three goals in 10 games with FV Emerging this year.
The centre-back has previously plied her trade with Box Hill United in 2018 and South Melbourne in 2019 and has been a part of Junior Matilda training camps.
Following her decision to move to the Club, Varley said: “I’m excited to have signed with Adelaide United.
“This is a fantastic chance to test myself playing against the best female footballers in the country and I can’t wait to begin training with my new teammates and working under Adrian (Stenta).”
After signing the pair, Adelaide United’s A-League Women’s Head Coach, Adrian Stenta, said: “We’re happy to add both Grace and Leia to our squad.
“Grace is able to play anywhere across the defence, while Leia is predominantly a centre-back.
“They are young players with a lot of potential and will certainly be beneficial to our team, which is coming together nicely.”